Undergrad Quincy Godwin: Using Facebook to forget affiliations, talk about climate change

Here’s the scene… I was taking a break from studying and scrolling through my Facebook feed during the Global Climate Strike week. It was depressing. All I saw were memes from both sides of the political fence, all on the topic of the ‘idiots’ on the other side.

I feel that it’s worth saying that I strongly oppose the bipartisan political system in place in this country, and I saw so clearly in that moment that this fence that separates Americans’ ideologies was strategically placed by those in power who wish to exploit environmental and human resources for profit. It also serves the purpose of confusing the American public as to take away our power as a people united for the common good. I saw that “the middle” is a fictional rift in our social consciousness meant to take away our democratic power. 

With these thoughts weighing heavy in my heart, I opened a Word document and just started pouring my thoughts in – trying my best to use simple, digestible, and compassionate language. Ultimately, I wished to encourage conversation that was outside of the red-blue fiction that our exploiters have fed us since grade school. 

This is what I wrote and posted to Facebook:

“Friends and family, there’s something I feel like I need to say here because I have a large network in the real, working class North Carolina outside of the liberal Chapel Hill bubble that I live in. I know a lot of Trump supporters and right wing folks are going to read this and have something to say in response. I want you to! I encourage it. Let’s talk about it.

What I have to say is this: it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that the government is using the idea of climate change to divide the people of America. Everywhere I look on social media there’s either memes about the “dumb republicans” that deny climate change and deny science, or about the “dumb liberals” thinking that not eating meat is going to change the weather. I think that this is a product of climate change being recklessly tacked on to the democratic ‘liberal’ platform. And I also feel like that reckless tacking on is a result of big oil and coal industries (which most politicians from either side are bought by) trying to protect themselves.

Now, I hope y’all are still with me. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat or something far different. You’re people – Americans – and you’re coming from a real place and there’s probably a pretty good reason for you to believe whatever you believe politically. That’s cool with me. But whoever you are, consider for a moment that you’re being deceived by the government and corporations to think that climate change is not real, or is being blown out of proportion. Consider for a moment the possibility of Ahoskie,or Edenton, or Elizabeth City, or Wilmington being underwater in 40 years. Think about your grandma’s house, or your mama’s house being flooded. The Avalon pier swept away. No more snow in the winter time. 10 hurricanes every year instead of 1 or 2. The fish will die, and so will the deer and the foxes. No more hunting.

Even if it is a small possibility, even the smallest of chances that that could happen… wouldn’t you want to do something to stop it? Don’t you want your children to grow up and know the beautiful, amazing North Carolina that you know? The time to do something about it is right now. Climatologists and astronomers are the ones I trust when it comes to issues involving the way the planet should behave, and they are all saying the same thing, the planet is dying.

This post is not to try to get you to change your political stance. It’s to try to show you that climate change is not a political issue. It’s a human issue. The dying world won’t care if you are Democrat or Republican. The hurricanes won’t only hit the Democrat’s houses. The oil company CEO’s are trying to DECEIVE you to keep their POCKETS FAT. That’s the truth of the matter. Don’t let them please. No one reading this is stupid.

If you want to know more about what you can do about climate change, PM me I would love to talk to you.”

I received a lot of support from friends and peers, but this is not the demographic that I wanted to reach with this post. I wanted to reach my peers’ fathers and mothers, my extended family and family friends that live in the rural parts of North Carolina; the welders, mechanics, pharmacy technicians, and agriculture workers. I am a rural North Carolinian myself, raised by rural North Carolinians – I wanted to speak to what I know to be the real North Carolina outside of the UNC/Durham microcosm, but I was afraid that my post wasn’t going to make it there. 

So I did something bolder than I’ve ever done on Facebook, I shared the post as a direct message to as many people that don’t live in the Triangle as I could. Over 100 people. 

The responses I received in my messages were quite different than the ones I received in the comments of the post, but the majority of responses I got were positive, to my surprise. Many people thanked me for reaching out and treating them like people capable of having a productive conversation about their political beliefs. I spent hours replying to messages, and I feel like in those conversations that followed I really may have made some folks reevaluate not only their understanding of climate change, but also their role in the democratic process, which felt impactful.

If this blog post does nothing else, I hope it shows readers the merit of meeting people where they are, and understanding that everybody is coming from a real place. We are capable of having conversations with those who don’t share our political beliefs, and I believe that real change happens when we forget our affiliations and labels and have conversations about what justice means.

About the Author: Quincy Godwin is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying Computer Science.  He is a recipient of the Global Gap Year Fellowship, and has worked in sustainable development projects in Tanzania, India, and Vietnam. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys rock climbing, as well as creating music with his indie-funk band.

Featured Image: Quincy Godwin. He writes, “The open fields of the North Carolina coastal plains was where I was born and raised. So many summers were spent mowing 5 acre lawns or repainting barns in the stagnant heat so that I could put gas in my car for long summer night rides with friends on the seemingly endless country 2-lanes. In truth, I was spoiled because the Chapel Hill night sky just can’t compare to the way it is out there.”